There will only be 400 bottles of Ardbeg's 'The Abyss' whisky and the artwork has a Hollywood super twist

An extremely rare 34 year old Ardbeg is hitting the market, and it’ll delight fans of the Corryvreckan whisky.

Published 6th Jun 2024
Updated 6 th Jun 2024

Whisky and art have had an enduring relationship for decades, with many artists showcasing their talents on bottle design, labels and even using the liquid and production processes as inspiration on artists in residence programmes.

But Ardbeg, the smoky Islay whisky from the Glenmorangie Company, has never been one to follow in the footsteps of others.

Its playful marketing, whisky names and dog mascot Shortie, have set this brand apart from other seemingly more high end whiskies. And while others are trying to appeal to a younger audience, Ardbeg has already been positioned as a more approachable Islay dram.

So the Ardbeg way into celebrating art and artists was always going to be fun. Enter Planet Ardbeg, a 40 page sci-fi anthology created by three artists - award-winning New York cartoonist Ronald Wimberly in collaboration with fellow artists Emma Ríos and Sanford Greene - and released in 2022.

This limited edition publication was inspired by the unique flavours and ‘origin stories’ of three Ardbeg expressions – Ardbeg Ten Years Old, Ardbeg An Oa, and Ardbeg Wee Beastie – and featured cameos from some of the Distillery’s best-known characters.

Now, DC and Marvel comic book artist Tradd Moore has added to this universe and created a bespoke comic, which ties into the release of a very rare whisky, Ardbeg The Abyss. 

This rich whisky has been created from the original, limited-edition Ardbeg Corryvreckan released in 2008. To bring The Abyss’s mysterious depths to life, the acclaimed American comic-book artist has reimagined the legend of the Corryvreckan whirlpool in a fantastical graphic novel.

Ardbeg Abyss
Tradd's comic

Set on ‘Planet Ardbeg’, it is available in print exclusively with The Abyss’s 400 numbered bottles. These bottles are encased in a handmade sleek, silver capsule, which looks a bit like a futuristic old driver’s helmet, set for travel to other realms.

The Corryvreckan whisky is named after the famous whirlpool that lies to the north of Ardbeg’s island home.

Folklore tells us that it was there, the Viking prince Breacan is said to have anchored his ship for three days and nights to win the hand of the Lord of the Isles’ daughter – yet was lost to its watery depths. Emulating the whisky’s journey into new flavour dimensions, Tradd gives new life to Breacan in the pages of his graphic novel. The prince travels through space and time to emerge reborn on Planet Ardbeg.

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Tradd’s comic reimagines the tale of Breacan being swept into the whirlpool - the namesake of the original whisky, a version of which made it into the core range.

It shows Breacan travelling through space, into a whirling Abyss – being engulfed by the sea witch who is said to control the whirlpool – and emerging transformed on Planet Ardbeg, which is in fact, Islay. In this way, the story reflects the whisky’s transformation over time, emerging reborn as Ardbeg The Abyss.

Tradd said: “When I visited Islay, everything felt holistic: the island itself, the people, the stories. From visiting the whirlpool to trying to swirl whisky in the glass, it all felt interconnected.

"I’m a big fan of mythology and as soon as I heard the legend of Corryvreckan, I just knew I wanted to reflect The Abyss’s mysterious depths through the story of Prince Breacan. On his own journey into mystery, he sees the abyss, enters the unknown and is swept up and surprised by what he finds…”

Ardbeg Abyss

This trip to Islay was a rare one for Moore, but he’s been inspired by the many comic book artists from Scotland.

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Of this he said: “Some of my favourite artists and comics writers happen to be from Scotland.I remember the first time I came out here was in 2017, and I went to the Kelvingrove in Glasgow, and Frank Quitely, who is one of my favourite artists in the field, had a big exhibition there.

"And I remember that it was very special and moving for me to see all these pieces that I had loved the printed versions of. To be able to bring original artwork here to Scotland myself, makes me in a weird way feel connected to the artists and writers that I love from Scotland, and I feel very fortunate to do that.”

Moore hopes his creation for Ardbeg will cause people to stop and spend some time with the images, and connect with how they feel about them - much like people do with whisky.

He said: “I always hope that people spend time with images. I think that we in modernity can be pulled in lots of different directions and we won't just sit and stare for a little bit at a singular image. I think that you don't get as much from art as you can if you don't take time with it.

"My hope is that people will really stare at these images and see how they feel about them, love or hate, and hopefully it’ll make them interested in Islay, in Scotland, in whisky, in figurative artwork. I just hope they see them and feel.”

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While the comic is an engaging work of art, what is the whisky like and how was it created? Its roots are from the ‘ultra-active’ French oak casks that were used to finish the 1989 spirit, which was the original Ardbeg Corryvreckan.

These unusual casks, which were heavily toasted to an exact specification, gave that legendary limited-edition its depth of flavour.

While most of these unrepeatable casks were consumed in the 2008 limited bottling, a small handful were stowed away and have now been bottled as Ardbeg The Abyss. It is a rich and unusually dark Ardbeg that has notes of toasted marshmallows and tea leaves, dark chocolate, pecan, leather and creosote.

Ardbeg Abyss

Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s Director of Whisky Creation, said: “Ardbeg The Abyss is the stuff of Ardbeggian legend.

"Formed from the rare heart of that original, sought-after 2008 limited release of Corryvreckan, this 34-year-old whisky has been transported by time into a new world of flavour.

"Held in a tiny handful of those rare, heavily toasted French oak casks, its 400 bottles contain mysterious depths of toasted marshmallows, dark chocolate, pecan nuts and leather – a rare taste of an Ardbeg icon revived, and reimagined.

In celebration of the Ardbeg Corryvreckan’s role in the distillery’s liquid history, 1000 limited edition bottles of core range Ardbeg Corryvreckan are also to be released, featuring a label design by Tradd Moore.

Four individual designs will be available, each taken from a frame featured in The Abyss’ graphic novel. These unique bottles will be available exclusively from the Distillery Visitor Centre on Islay from June.

Ardbeg The Abyss will be available to buy via Ardbeg.com, at the Distillery Visitor Centre on Islay, and through the Moët Hennessy Private Client channel, across the world.

Ardbeg, Isle of Islay, UK
Ardbeg, Isle of Islay, UK, PA42 7EA
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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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